Dirty looks, offensive and abusive comments, unfair treatment and a massive inferiority complex are just some of the things that I really struggled to live with as an overweight child. Deep down I knew that I was beautiful, but when you are told otherwise, you begin to believe it. I hid my inner beauty, even from myself, reminding myself, as others had readily done, that I was a stupid idiot for even thinking for a second that I deserved to feel good about myself. I was, after all, just a fat person. I really started to believe the negative self talk. I really thought that it was true that people who are thin are better. That was what I was told, in the media, from my family who didn’t know any better, from strangers on the street as they screamed expletives at me for no other reason than that I was overweight. Plus sized children needed to be changed as far as ‘they’ were concerned, and that sent me the message that I was bad and wrong for simply being me.
Now I’m not saying that my family did not have a right to be concerned for my health, because as we have all become aware, the risk factor for weight related health issues is greatly increased and should be considered as a possible reality. What my main objection was about was that I was always the same person, and always deserved to be loved and respected for who I was, rather than what my size was. It would be a long road ahead before I realised that I am not my weight, and I am not my looks. I am greater than all of that.
But how can you not believe that you are worth less than thin people, when it was virtually impossible to find clothing to suit your shape, and even harder to find clothing to suit your personality. Was that the problem within the fashion industry? Did they assume that ‘larger sized women’ didn’t have a personality? If this was the case, I take great offense at that. Or perhaps the powers that be didn’t think there was a market in plus sized clothing. Or perhaps they didn’t want to send out the message that being overweight was ok. Whatever the reason, we the public, were left with less than suitable fashion options.
But the great thing about life is that if you don’t like something, you have the power to change it. It was going to be many years before I discovered this for myself, and even longer before I had the opportunity to put it into action.
I had been on every diet in the world, trying to change myself to what society viewed was the right shape. An uphill battle. Self hatred, self loathing, anger at those around me, regret over not having been brought up in the ‘right family’. I had all the thoughts that would keep me exactly where I was. Stuck. In between where I was, and where I wanted to be. And still I was dressing in over priced, boring grandma clothes that did not suit me. I remember walking in to Target once as a teenager, swaggering over to the plus sized clothing area, and being greeted with a sea of fluorescent. ‘Fluorescent!’ I shouted! Why would I want to stand out like a stick of zinc?! Don’t they know I want to hide? ‘Where’s the black? Give me black!’
I once over heard someone ask their friend ‘why don’t plus sized women wear clothes that fit them properly?’ I thought about that for awhile, and concluded it was for 2 reasons. 1. We didn’t like our bodies, so we tried to hide them behind loose fitting clothes, hoping that people wouldn’t notice us and our ‘not so feminine’ curves, or that 2. The clothes we bought just weren’t right for us, and there were so little options for the ‘fuller figured’ woman that we were prepared to settle on whatever we could get.
But times, they are a changin’! Currently, up to 60% of women in Australia are considered ‘plus sized’ with body shapes ranging from size 12 upwards. Size 12. Since when was size 12 considered plus size? Well we have the fashion and modelling industries to thank for that. I would have loved to be a skinny size 12 when I was younger and was sized 24-26, so when I found out that 12 was the new plus size, I was not impressed. I can understand the frustration amongst women sized 12 and above, who would really object to being considered overweight, especially if they were in the ‘healthy weight range.’ But unfortunately, once a term is coined, it’s not going to go away in a hurry.
The silly thing is that I would say I know more about how to lose weight, and more about health and exercise, than most thin people I know. Why then was I still overweight? Obviously there were other factors involved. It takes work, focus, commitment, and internal happiness to lose weight, and something else all together to keep it off. I have lost around a hundred kilos at different intervals in my life, thanks to my perpetual dieting. Something just wasn’t right though if I kept putting it back on. Why would I do that to myself?
And what about women suffering from Anorexia? Aren’t they wasting away for a reason? I have spoken to many women over the years, big and small, healthy and not healthy, who have hang-ups about their body. It seems that it doesn’t matter what size you are, women (and I’m sure some men), will always find a way to doubt themselves. That’s the funny thing about addiction. Addiction to a way of being. It has it’s little tricks to keep you stuck in what doesn’t work. It stops you looking for solutions. Like a Chinese finger trap, the harder you pull, the more stuck you get.
The dieting industry is a double edged sword. On one hand it promises (and sometimes delivers) weight loss, mainly short term, but for some of ‘the lucky ones’ it can produce real lasting change. And on the other hand, it neglects to take in to account that diet is only one part of the equation. What are the other parts? Our mental, emotional and spiritual selves need to be satisfied and we need to feel safe, happy and loved! Get rid of guilt and resentment, and replace it with empowerment in ALL situations!
The reality is, that there is an industry that is required to clothe the fuller figured ladies of the world. Without it, we would all be nude, or wearing hessian sacks. The reality is, that no amount of pressure from society, is going to make a woman lose weight and keep it off if she doesn’t know how or is not ready. The reality is, that every person is beautiful, yesterday, today, tomorrow and for all eternity. The reality is, that the only person’s opinion of you that matters is your own. No one can make you happy and keep you there. It has to come from within.
So having said that, how do we become happy with ourselves? Well lets start by cutting through all the lies we have been told about ourselves. Every woman is a beautiful, sexy goddess in their own right. It doesn’t matter if they have someone telling them every day. What matters is when you look in the mirror, how do you feel? Do you feel love, or hate? Do you feel inspired or drained? Do you think you are sexy or do you wish you could hide in a corner from repulsion and self loathing? Do you see your beauty, or do you look for your flaws?
The happier and safer we feel, the less our body needs the weight for protection from the outside world. We become more inclined to listen to our bodies. Listen to your intuition- it will tell you when you have had enough to eat, how to appreciate each mouthful, what foods would be most beneficial to eat based on the nutrients you crave, when you are thirsty instead of hungry, and how much exercise you need to do for your body to feel good!
As part of my inner emotional journey, I have been focusing on keeping my mind positive, and telling my negative self talk that it is not welcome here. Each day is a new test. Each day is another chance to remind myself that I am more than my body. Each day I am kicking out the negative thoughts, and giving thanks to my beautiful, strong legs for carrying me, and for my arms that are helping me to massage my loved ones, and for my breasts that will one day feed my newborn children, and for my bottom that allows me to sit for extended periods while I work. Each day is a new challenge, and I am so thankful for it!
My loving partner and I have created an online boutique www.plussizedclothing.com.au, so that we can help people like me, who have faced the challenge of shopping for clothes that work with our self esteem, rather than against it. We have hand picked some of the best clothes in the world to allow you to express your own style, and to mix and match for a variety of situations. Once you have chosen clothes that you love, please remember, that when you wear them with pride, your inner beauty will shine out, and each one of us will be able to do our part at changing the myths that were established before our time.
By Sharona Radovsky – Director Of Work Rest And Play Plus Sized Clothing, 08/01/09